It was clear from the outset that this year’s Badminton was never going to be a dressage competition. Giuseppe Della Chiesa asserted control of the event with an uncompromising course design ensuring the most dramatic Badminton for decades.
Though sadly five riders including Caroline Powell didn’t even have the chance to test their metal on the daunting cross-country course that caused such a stir. Following the dressage Caroline and her team, including our good friend Choppy Crawford, took the painful decision to withdraw Onwards and Upwards as he was lame. Both horse and rider were made for that Badminton course and it’s a huge disappointment they didn’t get a crack at the whip.
For those that did go through to Day 2 a course that had always looked like it might cause an upset or two began to look rather sinister in the pouring rain and howling wind. And sure enough experienced horses and riders came to grief with increasing frequency as the day progressed. There was no single problematic jump accounting for the high body count, more a case of every jump being huge and almost every one claiming at least one victim.
William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson and Mark Todd all came down to earth with either a bump or a splash.
The intimidating third fence put an end to Emily Galbraith’s chances when her horse Timing said ‘nae chance’. We’re gutted for Emily and her horse who is normally so full of courage and pluck but on this occasion was temperamental from the start. Though not one to linger on disappointments Emily already has her sights on the Open Intermediate at Floors this weekend. As she put it ‘it’s not as though he expended much energy’ – a reprimand that suggest she expects him to pull his hoof out.
Our other man to watch was Aussie Bill Levett, an A Hume customer who trotted out in threads supplied by our Kelso shop. We managed to catch him after the event and he said:
“It was an extraordinary Badminton. A great, fascinating competition, there hasn’t been one like that for decades.”
Bill had two horses in competition, Silk Stone and Shannondale Titan. It was Silks first time out in 4 star competition and according to Bill the fences were just ‘too big’ for his horse.
“The feeling from a riders point of view is that nobody wants a dressage competition but the course could’ve done with one or two ‘let up’ fences. Instead there were none and the dimensions were relentless. At seven or eight minutes the horses were doing OK, but by nine minutes they were all looking tired.”
Still Bill and Silks put up a good fight before being eliminated at the 15th for three successive refusals. Bill’s philosophical about the result and retains faith in Silks ability to compete at 4star level. Post-Badminton he’s looking ahead to 3star Bramham and potentially another 4star outing at Luhmuhlen in mid-June. He feels that Silks is a horse that will only reach his full potential by continued exposure to high-level competition.
On the other hand Bill’s other ride Shannondale Titan more than earned his stripes being one of only 32 horses out of over 70 to complete the course. Shannondale was another 4star first timer and he did well to finish at all. Bill says he kept the pace in check and that his horse grew in confidence as the course progressed, though they did pick up 20 penalties on the Team GBR Silver Birch.
If there was any suggestion of ‘could’ve done better’ then Bill attaches this to the show jumping and the 16 penalty points they picked up:
“He’s normally so good and I don’t know quite what went wrong, if he got stuck in the ground, or what? He was quite lit up with the atmosphere. For me this was the low point.”
Although we completely get Bill’s feeling of missed opportunity it’s worth noting that out of the 32 competitors only fellow Aussie Wendy Schaeffer went clear, picking up 3 time penalties for the privilege.
After hauling their haunches round that humungous cross country it’s no surprise that even horses that normally jump with great enthusiasm were looking a bit weary. We reckon Bill and Shannondale put in a sterling performance and we’re really looking forward to seeing where they take it from here. We will be watching.
Lastly, of course we need to offer our congratulation to Sam Griffiths, another Australian – and there were a good few of them this year –an outstanding, unexpected win. Congratulations also to GB’s own Oliver Townend and Harry Meade – brilliant work. And finally, commiserations but also congratulations to Paul Tapner who rode so well and held his own at the top of the field until the final hour.
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